Metonymy -- using
a vaguely suggestive, physical object to embody a more general
idea: CROWN for royalty; the PEN is mightier than the SWORD.
"If we cannot strike offenders in the heart, let us strike
them in the wallet." We use metonymy in everyday speech
when we refer to the entire movie-making industry as a mere
suburb of L.A., "Hollywood," or when we refer
to the collective decisions of the United States government
as "Washington," or the "White House."
using a part of a physical object to represent the whole
object: "Twenty eyes watched our every move" (i.e., ten
people watched our every move). "A hungry stomach has no
ears" (La Fontaine).
Puns -- A pun
twists the meaning of words. Homonymic Puns -- "Johnny B.
Good" is a pun for "Johnny be good." Sound similarities
-- "Casting perils before swains" (instead of "pearls before
Zeugma -- one
verb using different objects. If this changes the verb's
intial meaning, the zeugma is sometimes called syllepsis:
"If we don't hang together,
we shall hang separately" (Ben Franklin).
"The queen of England
sometimes takes advice in that chamber, and sometimes
". . . losing her
heart or her necklace at the ball" (Alexander Pope).
"She exhausted both
her audience and her repertoire."
-- giving human qualities to inanimate objects: "The ground
thirsts for rain; the wind whispered secrets to us."
is a form of personification in which an inanimate object
gains the ability to speak. For instance, in the Anglo-Saxon
poem, "The Dream of the Rood," the wooden cross verbally
describes the death of Christ from its own point of view.
Ecocritical writers might describe clearcutting from the
viewpoint of the tree, and so on.
(not to be confused with the punctuation mark): addressing
someone or some abstraction that is not physically present:
"Oh, Death, be not proud" (John Donne). "Ah, Mr. Newton,
you would be pleased to see how far we have progressed in
Erotema -- asking
a rhetorical question to the reader: "What should honest
-- echoic words or words that create an auditory effective
similar to the sound they represent: Buzz; Click; Rattle;
Clatter; Squish; Grunt.
exaggeration: "His thundering shout could split rocks."
Or, "Yo' mama's so fat. . . ."
Meiosis -- understatement
(opposite of exaggeration): "I was somewhat worried when
the psychopath ran toward me with a chainsaw." (i.e., I
was terrified). Litotes (especially popular in Old
English) is a type of meiosis in which the writer uses a
statement in the negative to create the effect: "You know,
Einstein is not a bad mathematician." (i.e., Einstein is
a good mathematician.)
using a different part of speech to act as another, such
as a verb for a noun, or a noun for a verb, or an adjective
as a verb, etc.:
"Gift him with Sports
Illustrated magazine for Christmas" (as opposed to
"he sang his didn't,
he danced his did." (e. e. cummings)
"I am going in search
of the great perhaps" (Rabelais).
A completely impossible figure of speech, especially one breaking the limits of realism or grammar. For example, many figures of speech describe something biologically or physically impossible:
"Joe will kittens when he hears this!" "I will sing victories for you." Or as Milton so elegantly
phrased it, catachresis is all about "blind mouths."
For a more recent example, consider the disturbingly cheerful pop song by Foster the People, "Pumped Up Kicks," which deals with a school shooting. Here, the shooter/narrator states, "I've waited for a long time. Yeah, the sleight of my hand is now a quick-pull trigger. / I reason with my cigarette." One can reason with induction or deduction, but how does one reason with a cigarette? Here, the catachresis might evoke the idea of the "cool" kid using personal style instead of a persuasive argument, or it might evoke the imagery of torture--burning victims with a cigarette-butt to make one's point. This sort of evocative, almost nonsensical language is the heart of good catachresis.
Catachresis is closely related
to hyperbole and synaesthesia.
-- Mixing one type of sensory input with another in an impossible
way, such as speaking of how a color sounds, or how a smell
looks: "The scent of the rose rang like a bell through the
garden." "I caressed the darkness with cool fingers."
Aporia -- Talking
about not being able to talk about something: "I can't tell
you how often writers use aporia."
Breaking off as if unable to continue: "The fire surrounds
them while -- I cannot go on."
oxymora also called Paradox)-- Using contradiction
in a manner that oddly makes sense. Examples of oxymora
include jumbo shrimp, sophisticated rednecks,
and military intelligence. The best oxymora seem
to reveal a deeper truth through their contradictions. For
instance, "without laws, we can have no freedom." Shakespeare's
Julius Caesar also makes use of a famous oxymoron:
"Cowards die many times before their deaths" (2.2.32).